In 2017, the city unveiled a new Pride flag Credit: Zari Tarazona / Billy Penn

On June 8, the City of Philadelphia unveiled a new version of the iconic gay pride rainbow flag. Atop the regular multi-hued lines were stripes in two new shades: Black and brown.

The design was meant to signify inclusivity, an issue the local community has struggled with recently.

In January, the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations announced the requirement for staff and owners of 11 Gayborhood bars and two nonprofits to undergo implicit bias and Fair Practices Ordinance training, after a three-month investigation into alleged racial discrimination.

In February, Office of LGBT Affairs chief Nellie Fitzpatrick resigned amid calls that she wasn’t addressing the problem — Amber Hikes, who is black, was appointed in her place — and in April there was a leadership coup at the Mazzoni Center, one of Philly’s main LGBTQ community organizations.

The landscape is still somewhat fragile, but the introduction of the new flag brought together many of the various coalitions in a celebratory truce.

Yet, there has been backlash, especially on social media. Critics claim the new flag is actually divisive, because it highlights people of color as separate. But Hikes and other local community leaders have defended their decision, saying criticism of the new flag — especially by white people who are not from Philadelphia — proves its point.

After all, Hikes noted, this is not a replacement for the original, but an addition to the varied collection of LGBTQ pride flags. Watch below to learn more about the controversy.” caption=”Video by Jordan Gunselman and Zari Tarazona” /]

Danya Henninger was first editor and then editor/director of Billy Penn at WHYY from 2019 to 2023.